Here’s a riddle: If you spend millions on a 30-second Super Bowl television commercial, what should you get in return?
For Wix.com (WIX), that was the question on the mind of chief marketing officer Omer Shai during last year’s Super Bowl. The Tel Aviv-based website platform developer spent around $10 million and enlisted N.F.L. legends Terrell Owens, Emmitt Smith, and Brett Favre to become the centerpiece of their first Super Bowl ad in 2015.
The results, at least to Wix.com, were impressive enough that the company is one of the few to return as second-time advertisers to the big game. “We did pretty good in terms of the amount of money we got back from the campaign we did,” said Shai in an interview with Fortune. “It gave us great confidence in doing it [another Super Bowl ad] again.”
On one hand, the costs of advertising in the Super Bowl are high, and the return is hard to extrapolate. This year’s game is expected to cost companies a reported $5 million for a 30-second spot, and over the last 10 years, the average cost of an ad spot has increased by 75%.
The results also drastically range. Marketing research and advertising technology company Fluent surveyed around 1,600 watchers of the Super Bowl last year to see the before-and-after effects of five first-time advertisers, including Wix. The average “brand lift,” defined as whether viewers would recognize advertisers more after their first Super Bowl ad, was 12.7%. Wix’s average was 8.7%, and while high scorers like Mophie and Loctite did well among fans, they are not planning to return this year.
“Some advertisers might use the Super Bowl as more of a one-time lift-off mechanism,” said Fluent CMO Jordan Cohen. For perennial advertisers like Coca-Cola (KO) and Budweiser (BUD), their consistent presence in the big game is a defensive maneuver predicated on huge advertising budgets and not losing out to the competition. “You don’t want to be the first CMO of Coca-Cola to be not advertising in the Super Bowl,” said Cohen. “You don’t want to take that risk.”
However, do they boost the bottom line? One ad research firm estimates that 80% of Super Bowl commercials do not boost sales or purchase intent. A survey by marketing analytics agency Adlucent shows that 87% of viewers who watch Super Bowl ads are doing so solely for entertainment or social purposes, and only 6% watch to discover new brands, products, or services. Less than 1% watch to influence any kind of purchasing.
Wix, however, would beg to differ. Shortly after their Super Bowl ad aired, Wix announced in its guidance for 2015 that it had increased its revenue outlook for the year from $198 – $202 million to $200 million – $204 million. Without mentioning the Super Bowl, CFO Lior Shemesh alluded to the success of the big game campaign. “Product improvements as well as greater visibility of our brand have contributed to the strong results in the first quarter,” he said in the statement.
This year, the website platform company is returning with a new campaign around pandas—Kung Fu Panda 3, to be exact. They will be partnering with DreamWorks Animation to use the film to promote their website’s tools in a new Super Bowl campaign. Shai says that so far, around 100 million people have viewed one or more pieces of their content for this year’s Super Bowl campaign, and “the first indications of the campaign are great.” Check it out here:
Brands also hope to become the darlings of social media for this year’s game. “It’s likely that one or two marketers will engage via social by sparking a hot, real-time conversation,” analyst Erna Alfred Liousas of research firm Forrester said. “But that’s not the same as seeing true marketing results. The real trophy for this Super Bowl will go to behind-the-scenes marketers who orchestrate paced, highly-targeted campaigns that maximize the audience potential per channel, while simultaneously working towards a common business goal.”
So far, the Salesforce Big Game Social Tracker that follows social media chatter around brands during the Super Bowl period has Hyundai (HYMTF) as the advertiser with the most buzz online. Avocados From Mexico, a second-time Super Bowl advertiser, is a surprising runner-up over stalwarts like Honda (HMC) and Doritos with the most social media mentions over the last seven days:
The list of first-time Super Bowl advertisers this year numbers at around 14, and range from the well-known like Amazon (AMZN) and PayPal, to the true newbies like beverage maker Bai and beer brand Shock Top. And for all brands, the opportunity to hold a rare captive audience that is expected to top last year’s audience of 114.4 million viewers is gold. “It’s the one time of the year where people are not skipping commercials, and are actually watching it,” said Cohen.